Check this story out. This is fear in warp drive.
Is anyone going to stand up for this guy's right to free speech even if we disagree with it contextually? Can we see the difference between simple words and locking people up or seizing their property? Who got victimized here? The last thing I want to see is a bunch of fear driven cops seizing property or charging us with make believe crimes because we say inappropriate things. Yet as I write this, there will be people that will say that the acts of the police are appropriate given the circumstances here. I will respectfully disagree. And people better be damned careful about defending the seizure of property when someone utters a few harmless albeit careless or insensitive words. Because as we will see in just a minute, this kind of mob fear has caused some really ugly black swan events.
This is the stuff that people don't like to talk about. Except crazy bastards like me.
In this part of the essay, I am going to offer up a universal premise. That all negative emotion flows out of fear. This includes anger, hostility, insensitivity, loneliness, attack speech, pride, greed, self centered-ness, depression, ridicule, distrust, disrespect, dishonesty, grief, sorrow, guilt, and shame. Controlling people are some of the most fearful people I have ever met.
I would also like to make one giant distinction. A little physical fear is healthy. A little real fear keeps us out of prison, keeps us from drinking and driving, tells us to get regular physicals at the doctors office. This is rational and intelligent fear. The kind that allows us to survive. What I am speaking of in a broad general sense, is the overwhelming emotional and irrational fear that causes us to do ridiculous and insane things.
What happens when fear meets power? Some of the greatest tragedies of our lives occur. And while I wasn't present for Hitler's fear driven rampage- about 75 miles from me is a Japanese internment camp. When I criticize those internment camps, the people that supported them in the early days of 1942 rigorously defend them. Why? Fear. They fear that they did the wrong thing. They don't want anyone second guessing that. They don't like it when folks like me look back and ask, "what were you thinking?" They want to rationalize that conduct. It is no different than the rationalizing southern slave owners did. And they don't want you dredging that dark piece of history up. They are ashamed of that. They say things like, "if you were here, you would have done the same thing." Perhaps. I'm not interested in criticizing those particular pieces of history. It is however, a wonderful illustration of what happens when fear coupled with power- finds group support. Now you might think 1942 is ancient history and that we have emotionally evolved out of those fear driven dark ages- eh?
Let's fast forward to Sept. of 2008. The financial world is collapsing. All of our financial institutions are bankrupt. They have been making horrible loans on margin (fractional banking) and now the whole mess is unwinding. All of those greedy bankers, insurers, originators, CDO buyers, politicians, mutual funds, hedge funds, and home buyers are about to become bankrupt and be held accountable. This is what is supposed to happen when people make shitty decisions. They go to the penalty box.
Remember the original question? What happens when fear meets power? All of those powerful and rich people were about to get wiped out financially and emotionally. Thousands, maybe millions, would go to jail. They knew they were in deep trouble. And so Hank Paulson, Congress, the President, the bankers and the FED did the predictable. They sold out every hard working and honest taxpayer here and abroad. Paulson himself acted as though he was a savior. A hero. He painted a collapsed world scenario, exploited all of our fears, and asked for a blank check. They saved their own wretched hides. And they have covered it up. Just like those Japanese internment camps. They want us to just forget about it. They haven't even bothered to try reform because that is inconvenient and the argument is still raging two years later.
Guys like Paulson are billionaires. They have a shitload to lose. They are motivated almost beyond belief, by fear, to keep what they have. Rather than be bankrupted, disgraced, imprisoned. They misuse and abuse their power. As Paulson scanned the horizon, he surely knew that they were looking at financial armageddon.
It was a helluva lot more politically expedient to just wipe out millions of middle class people. They didn't have any power. No voice. We became the path of least resistance. And here we are two and a half years later, still angry, no rule of law being enforced anywhere.
Do you understand the kind of courage that it would have taken to stand up at that time, and tell the world- tough shit. There will be no bail outs. Did anyone do that? They would have been immediately isolated and castigated. They would have been marginalized and crushed. Could Barack Obama have done that? No, probably not. He simply had never been in a situation that required that immense level of courage. He was co-opted before he ever arrived at the White House. Would there have been pain and suffering? You better believe it. Would there have been immediate reform? Would people have gone to prison, disgraced and broken? You better believe it. Had Obama overcome his fear- he might very well have been called the greatest President that ever lived. In the short term, though, he would have been ridiculed beyond belief. So it was that group fear, the easy way, won out. We have yet to pay for those sins. But we will.
I cannot tell you how it would have turned out if the honest and hardworking people of this country had been supported. Those of us who didn't flip houses or buy tons of shit on make believe equity. But I know this. The people doing the most suffering right now would be the people that deserved it. The rating agency employees would all be in jail for fraud. All those TBTF banks-gone. Former CEO's like Paulson and Mozillo-in prison. And a broken country could move forward and rebuild. Maybe without that thieving FED. There would be a sense of justice and the rule of law could surface again. But most importantly, the honest people of this country could get over their anger. We would have a sense of pride and unity and we could be proud that in America- doing the right thing still matters even if the whole village has to feel the pain. We would be the beacon of freedom and justice that we once were. We might all be broken and angry, but we could get over it a lot easier knowing that the architects of this fiasco- got theirs. But most importantly- we would be setting the example of leadership. Instead we have continued chaos. Despite our President's pleas to stop.
Iceland took their lumps. They overcame fear and the EU who desperately offered bail outs. My hat's off to the Icelandic people for doing the right thing. Emotionally, they are recovering. They are actually prosecuting people. They are light years ahead of us in terms of healing and getting well.
So how does it stand now? I have never seen our country more angry, more distrustful, or fractured. All of those elements of fear are everywhere. The politicians hate each other, the citizens hate the politicians, the mamby pambys want it all to stop. The conservatives take cheap shots at the progressives, and everyone has their own set of villains. Our country is a mess. Trying to triage and lie our way out of us this depression with make believe recoveries and quantitative easing. We are gushing debt everywhere. The countries we have victimized are not stupid. Our inability to police ourselves has left us isolated. I think we are going to pay a price for that also. A different kind of price.
I have taken on a couple of immense and inflammatory issues here. The very fear I am trying to wrench to the surface- may prevent any reasonable discussion from taking place. I understand that.
Is there a solution?